Philippine-born Wesley So preserved his chances of defending the title after closing out the sixth round of the 2021 US Chess Championships with a draw with Leinier Dominguez on Wednesday (October 13, Manila time) at the Saint Louis Chess Club in Missouri.
Handling the white pieces, So attempted to gain more control of the center out of the opening, but Dominguez responded with a Queen's Gambit Accepted for increased mobility on the black side.
The match fizzled out into equality after a tense tactical battle in the opening moves. The Filipino-American offered a bishop trade at the critical juncture, which could have set up a King and Pawn endgame.
However, Dominguez decided to keep his bishop in response, leading up to a threefold repetition at the end.
So and Dominguez split the point to share the second spot in the standings with 3.5 points apiece. Standing alongside them behind the tournament leaders is Sam Sevian, who also gained 3.5 points after sending world no.2 Fabiano Caruana reeling to his second loss.
The sixth round also saw Alex Lenderman and Ray Robson agree for a truce as the two remain perched atop the leaderboards with identical 4.0 points.
In other matches, Sam Shankland subdued John Burke; Lazaro Bruzon Batista drew with Daniel Naroditsky; and Darius Swiercz and Jeffery Xiong settled for a draw.
Here is the rest of the tournament standings at the end of round six: Bruzon holds 3.0 points to trail behind So, Dominguez and Sevian; Caruana finds himself in the middle of a five-man logjam with Burke, Shankland, Swiercz and Naroditsky with 2.5 points each; and Xiong trudges along the cellar with 2.0.
The US Chess Championships will swing into its seventh round on Thursday (October 14, Manila time).
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.